Political Animal


August 16, 2012 4:03 PM It All Comes Together In Kansas

By Ed Kilgore

If you are one of those people who think the contemporary conservative movement is divided among “economic” or “fiscal” and “social” wings, with the first two in charge; or you think the moneyed elements will play the Christian Right for fools but in the end will insist on protecting their own liberties—then you need to take a look at what’s been going on inside the Kansas Republican Party, notably in its August 7 primary. Salon’s Irin Carmon has the story:

Aug. 7 was a very good night for people who want to drive safe abortion out of Kansas. Republican primary voters ousted relative moderates from the state Senate, laying the groundwork for Gov. Sam Brownback to push through his right-wing agenda, both economic and social.
The former got more attention. The election was evidence of “America’s grass-roots voter rebellion,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal opinion page, or it was, in the words of one ousted state senator, an example of Kansas-based Koch Industries, which threw a lot of money at the race, being “just a terrible, terrible citizen as far as I’m concerned.”
But it was also about abortion, in a state that is arguably more obsessed with it than any other. And abortion foes want proper credit.
“These elections were characterized as a referendum on pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback’s conservative agenda, with the media repeatedly identifying economic conservative groups as major players,” Kansans for Life said in a blog post. “But the GOP rout depended on the candidates’ pro-life credentials and is a reflection of Kansas pro-life persistence, hard work and prayer.”
It was also a reflection of a concerted alliance between groups like the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which received more than half of its war chest from the Koch brothers, and the state’s famous antiabortion hard-liners. The result is a purge not only of centrist Republicans, but even consistently antiabortion politicians who had nevertheless angered Kansans for Life.

This is the kind of politics the Editors of National Review were talking about when they praised Paul Ryan as a “full-spectrum conservative.”

AT RH Reality Check, Kari Ann Rinker of the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, went even further than Carmon in noting the close cooperation of the Christian Right and “pro-business” groups in getting rid of any Kansas Republican legislators who stood in the way of Brownback’s regressive agenda:

Voter turnout was 23 percent in this primary election. It appears that the independents stayed home or cast their votes in favor of the conservative candidates, but more significantly, the anti-choice and tea-publican factions of the party turned out in droves. They nearly trampled over each other in their haste to cast their votes. The Christian right arrived at their polling places with their pro-life voting guides clutched in hand and the tea-publicans with their Chamber endorsement guide in their brief case. It was as if Mike Huckabee rang the Chick-Fil-A dinner bell.

And it worked. Maybe the purge of the moderates in Kansas will eventually help the state’s Democratic Party regain the mojo it had when Kathleen Sebelius—you know, the Obama administration official who is now regarded by most elements of the conservative movement as the America’s preeminent baby-killer and God-hater—was governor. But for the time being, the Kochs and the full-quiver Christian Nationalist folk are working hand in glove, and there’s hell to pay.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • TCinLA on August 16, 2012 4:29 PM:

    "Christian Nationalist": as much a contradiction in termsas "National Socialist." With the same goals.

  • c u n d gulag on August 16, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Ok, we already know, according to some paraphrasing of either Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long, that “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross” - we may need to add that in our particular coming form of Dominionist Christian Fascism, it will come with a pro-life voting guide clutched in their other hand.

    Be afraid.

  • Ron Byers on August 16, 2012 5:08 PM:

    This election is the final chapter in a purge that has been going on for sometime. The next steps will include some kind of consolidation. It remains to be seen what will happen or if there will be future Kansas elections. No doubt democracy is in great danger in Kansas. Kansas is what happens when the National Democratic party abandons a state to the Republicans.

    The Democrats have to start thinking of themselves as a national party and not simply a coastal party. America is one country. We can't allow Republicans to have large hunks of it uncontested.

  • kindness on August 16, 2012 5:12 PM:

    Ron - what is happening in Kansas is NOT the Democratic Party's fault and trying to blame it on them is trollish.

    Next you'll be saying all Kansas needs is more Blue Dog Democrats to get elected. OK, so what if they did. The Blue Dog's have done more to hurt Democratic policy than help them.

  • Renai on August 16, 2012 5:14 PM:

    The folks of this fine nation need to be sternly reminded that no liberty is God-given, someone always has the power and money to take it away.

    Let Kansas happen, and then let it serve as a reminder to the other 49 states what complacency and lazy voting practices get you.

    How might the results have been different if the turn-out had been higher? Knowing the self-righteous will stampede to the voting booths, can the rest of us not be there to uphold our principles?

  • MikeBoyScout on August 16, 2012 5:30 PM:


    Kansas with its rabid social conservatives has lost Boeing.
    Those jobs went to Washington which is teed up to be the first state in the nation to approve marriage equality by referendum.

  • Ron Byers on August 16, 2012 5:45 PM:


    You can call me a troll if you want, but everybody who reads PA knows I am not. I really don't concern myself with the thugs in the Republican party, but I don't appreciate the failure of the Democratic party to look beyond he coasts and the urban areas. Those of us who live in fly over country wish we had a party that cared about us for more than our contributions.

  • SteveT on August 16, 2012 5:50 PM:

    I wish Democrats would point out how Republican environmental policies hurt the fetuses that they claim to care about so much.

    HR 2018 would restrict EPA from issuing any revisions to existing water standards or issuing a new standard for a pollutant if there is an existing standard in place. So if new scientific research finds that a pollutant in water increases the risk of miscarriages, the EPA would be restricted from doing anything about it.

    HR 2250 puts a legislative stay on EPA boiler MACT rules, delaying limits on emission of dioxins and mercury, both of which have been shown to increase the risk of miscarriages.

    HR 2681 would put a legislative stay on cement manufacturing emission standards, which would put limits of the emission of mercury and beryllium, another heavy metal that has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriages.

    HR 2273 takes coal ash regulation away from the EPA and gives responsibility to the states. Coal ash contains heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead, all of which have been shown to increase the risk of miscarriages. While it could be argued that the states would be just as strict as the EPA, the Kingston Fossil Plant , which spilled 1.1 billion US gallons of coal fly ash slurry into Tennessee rivers in 3008, was supposed to have been regulated by the state of Tennessee.

  • PTate in MN on August 16, 2012 6:45 PM:

    Ron Byers: "The Democrats have to start thinking of themselves as a national party and not simply a coastal party. America is one country. We can't allow Republicans to have large hunks of it uncontested. "

    Ron, I agree that Democrats need to have a 50-state strategy, but is there any middle ground on the cultural issues of abortion and access to contraception (actually, let's start calling it women's health) and same-sex unions? Even pro-lifers' who weren't conservative enough got the boot in Kansas. Some of the blame also belongs to the millions of $$$ that the Koch brothers are "investing" to achieve their political goals, and the 77% of voters who didn't bother with the primary.

    We are astonished that the hard-core conservative Christians keep voting for cultural issues against their economic self-interest, but that's what they do. We're talking about inflexible, thinkers here, traditionalists who don't connect the dots or learn from experience. I've come to believe that their mental model of the world sees economic decay as the consequence of America's moral decay--abortion, homosexuality, births outside of marriage--and in their world view, if they can stop the moral decay, the economy will get better. The worse the economy, the more important cultural issues become for them. D**m scary is what it is.

    I don't know what Democrats can do to change that mental model, but I'm open to suggestions.

    CAPTCHA makes me laugh: 2000 itedeas. Yep, ideas are what we need!

  • Ron Byers on August 16, 2012 10:46 PM:

    I don't know what Democrats can do to change that mental model, but I'm open to suggestions.


  • Ron Byers on August 16, 2012 10:51 PM:

    I don't know what Democrats can do to change that mental model, but I'm open to suggestions.


    For too long we have been to content tending to our interest group funders. Interest groups never solve problems. They are too invested in continuing the fight. Sadly we seem to have given up any serious effort at reaching out. That effort would probably start with trying to understand. You can't do any of it unless you try.

  • Gretchen on August 17, 2012 12:40 AM:

    I voted in the primary in Kansas last week. Kansas has a closed primary, so I was given a Democratic ballot. 3 offices of Democrats running unopposed, and nobody at all running against Kevin Yoder for Congress. They couldn't even get a token candidate. We were represented by Blue Dog Dennis Moore for 10 years until he retired, so it's possible for Democrats to win in this area, but nothing's happening.
    I hope there will be some pushback against the hard right, but I'm not optimistic in the face of all that Koch money set to the purpose of lowering their taxes no matter what it does to the state. Two members of my family work for the state government, which is going to be facing brutal cuts. It's a scary time here. And don't tell me to just move. I owe too much on my house to sell, and my family, friends, and job of over 20 years are here.

  • beejeez on August 17, 2012 8:54 AM:

    I knew it was going to be a bad idea when Obama picked Sebelius and Napolitano for his cabinet. The Dems needed those two where they were.